50-year-old beer league in Richmond skating on thin ice

One of Richmond’s longest-running men’s hockey leagues is in “grave danger of folding,” due to pandemic restrictions on the ice.

The Richmond Industrial Hockey League (RIHL) has been around for more than 50 years and normally plays Tuesday nights out of Richmond Ice Centre at Steveston Highway and No. 6 Road.

However, the RIHL president of 20 years, Doug Collins, said the current 14 skaters maximum rule and ban on competitive play has put his league on death row.

And with no information coming from the City of Richmond as to when the rules may change, Collins said his small league may lose teams to similar operations in Delta, where competitive adult hockey is being allowed.

“We’re basically restricted to 14 skaters and two goalies and not allowed to play any games, which means league play can’t happen,” bemoaned Collins.

“We’ve been told there might be some changes, but we just don’t have a clue when. Other rinks in the Lower Mainland have opened up to competitive play and it puts us in a real awkward spot because our teams have an opportunity to go right now to the likes of Delta, where there is a larger league.”

According to Collins, Delta still has limitations to the amount of skaters allowed – 20 – but “that’s doable; that’s basically two lines per team.

“We would normally have about three lines per team. Quite often guys don’t show up. But if you’re restricted to 10 players per team and someone doesn’t show up, you’re in trouble.”

Collins said the RIHL used to have six teams and is now down to just four.

“They’ve been pretty patient, but with only four teams, if one team goes, it’s going to kill the league,” he added.

Collins said he’s going to have to make a decision on the league’s viability soon, “one way or the other. A legacy of hockey at risk.”

The City of Richmond said it was aware of rinks in other municipalities allowing competitive play, but pointed out those were private facilities.

Spokesperson Clay Adams said the city is acutely aware that time is of the essence for organizations such as the RIHL.

But he added that, although the city has been in dialogue with various user groups, there are several practical challenges that still need to be ironed out before competitive play can return safely to the city’s ice rinks.

Adams pointed out, for example, the possible need for players on a crowded bench to be wearing face coverings or shields when they’re not on the ice.

© Richmond News